Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans Monday to assign a commission to study issues of equity in agriculture and also named key advisers for racial issues and market reform. 

Speaking to the National Farmers Union, Vilsack didn’t give a timeline for forming the equity commission, but said it was needed to ensure "we're treating all of our producers, especially socially disadvantaged producers, fairly.”

Vilsack said the panel would “begin the process of investigating all of the programs at USDA to make sure that we identify and root out any systemic racism that may exist in those programs. … The reality is that we've not only had discrimination in the past, but we've had the cumulative effect of that discrimination, which needs to be addressed.”

Dewayne Goldmon, who served for the past year as executive director for the Washington-based National Black Growers Council, will be Vilsack’s senior adviser for racial equity. Andy Green, who wrote extensively on market and trade issues for the left-leaning think tank, Center for American Progress, will be senior adviser for fair and competitive markets.

Goldmon, who has a doctorate in agronomy from Iowa State University, joined Monsanto in 1995 where he held positions in technology and development and stayed through the company’s acquisition by Bayer before retiring in 2019 as the outreach lead for Bayer CropScience.

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As for Green, Vilsack said he would be advising the department on steps “we need to take to make sure that we have better markets and fair markets will have an equity commission.”

Green co-authored a 2019 report for CAP that included several recommended reforms to expand the rights of farmers.

Among other things, the report called for enacting new contract protections for farmers and empowering farmers to bargain collectively with large buyers.

The report also called for creating an Independent Farmer Protection Bureau modeled after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was created in the wake of the 2008 meltdown of the financial services sector.

An IFPBshould be empowered to investigate and stop abuses of market power; protect farmers’ contract rights under laws such as the Packers and Stockyards Act; combat anti-competitive practices in seed and other input markets; and more. The IFPB should have backup authority to review and block mergers in markets that affect farmers," the report said. 

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